In Xavier's triathlon club, numbers are important.
8. That's the place Xavier needs to reach to qualify for Nationals in the spring. 9. The number of Xavier triathletes registered for the race, a record thus far. 237. The number of miles away from campus, towards University of Illinois.
When 5:15am hit, the senior, sophomore, 4 juniors, and 3 freshman were introduced to a number unfamiliar to them. 37. The temperature of the air.
It was by far the coldest day of the season, and these individuals were lucky enough to get their bikes loaded up and nibble down some breakfast before making the 30 minute ride over to the course without freezing themselves.
For Junior John McClellan, this was a fairly typical routine by now, minus the cold. This was his 16th triathlon, his 12th sprint. Though the bike split was longer than usual (14.5 instead of 13) and his typical strong suit shortened (300 meters instead of 750), he was at ease.
Perhaps the same could not be said about the 4 first-time Triathletes, Junior Cory St. Clair, Sophomore Jenna Graham, Freshmen Alexis Vanbastelaer and Adam Lamb. Their goals ranged from beating their siblings, winning the bike split, to "just get one under the belt."
A couple returners to the field were quite mentally prepared in Freshman Angela Sims and Senior Connor Gavin, along with officers Stephen Lamb and Aaron Isett.
The first set of swimmers hit the water at 8:00am, in time-trial format for a 6-length, 300 meter swim in the University of Illinois pool. The transition area was set a few hundred feet outside in the brisk, cool weather.
Sims entered the water first ranked 47th overall, followed a few seconds later by McClellan at 49th. They exited the water at nearly the same time.
Adam Lamb started off his triathlon career with some unfortunate luck, losing his goggles immediately after jumping in. Fishing them off the ground in the 12+ foot deep pool, he continued with renewed passion and urgency.
The adversity did not end there. Isett and Vanbastelaer both suffered multiple wipe-outs on the bike portion, while St. Clair threw a chain. Nearly everyone had an issue with their bike in some form or another.
Finally, McClellan made it back to the transition area first, followed close behind by St. Clair. Next was Gavin and Sims.
Gavin would end up running the fastest run split for Xavier with a respectable 19:15. Next would be Isett with a 21:49. Vanbastelaer, playing to her strength in the running background, ran the fastest for Xavier's girls with a 22:34.
St. Clair did, in fact, win the bike split, racing a jaw-dropping 36:36 14.5 mile split (23.7mph average), good enough for 15th overall college division with a 1:10:32, less than a minute out from the top 10.
Gavin's impressive run and decent bike and swim splits earned him second on the team with a 1:13:46.
Even with the bike problems, all 9 Musketeers managed to finish, earning the team points in the conference towards nationals.
Xavier has only one more race left in 2011, with two more indoor races planned for January-February 2012. They hope to continue in their success, preferably in warmer weather.